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What To Bring On A Hike With Your Dog

What to bring on a hike with your dog

Dogs are our buddies, our pals, and our family. It’s no surprise that many dog owners want to take their furry friends on a hike. There are a few necessities that you should bring if you decide to go on a hike with your pup to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

A leash, collar/harness, water, water dish, and poo bags are the bare bones of what you should bring on a hike with your dog. Additional equipment includes training treats, a food dish, extra food, a mat, a tick remover, a medical kit, an airlift harness, a towel, and a post-hike treat. 

Below, we’ll cover everything you should bring on a hike with your dog. We’ll also talk about whether or not you should bring your dog and give some tips on trail etiquette with dogs.

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Should You Hike With Your Dog?

Before we get into dog hiking essentials, let’s talk about whether or not you should leave Fido at home.

Hiking with my dog on Square Top Mountain Colorado

According to an article from the Wildlife Society Bulletin, hikers with dogs create greater senses of alertness in wild animals and increase the distance they move once they flush from their position.

In other words, hikers with dogs disturb the peace of nature.

On the other side of the argument, another study in the Journal of Biological Conservation found similar reactions to animals when hikers alone were out on the trails. So, the debate remains – should you hike with your dog? Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros Of Bringing Your Dog On Your Hike

Whether you have a 5-pound or 150-pound dog, they probably aren’t happy about being left at home. Let’s face it; we’re not happy about it either!

Here are some positive things about bringing your dog on a day hike:

  • You build a stronger bond with your dog.
  • You and your dog get exercise.
  • It’s an opportunity to train your dog around distractions.
  • You stimulate your dog’s senses by bringing them into a new environment.
  • If you hike alone, dogs can give you a sense of safety and security (Read more about hiking alone).
Hiking with dog at Ruby Peak Colorado

According to the University of New Mexico, dogs can even help reduce stress and anxiety, enhancing the benefits of walking in the woods.

Cons Of Bringing Your Dog On A Hike

Our furry pals are always by our side, but there are some instances when bringing your dog on a hike is a bad idea.

Here are some downsides to bringing your dog on a hike:

  • You might have to pay more attention to your dog than the scenery
  • You’ll have to carry extra gear for your dog
  • If you have a reactive dog, you may run into other dogs or people, which can cause stress
  • If your dog becomes injured, you may have to carry them out
  • Dogs may cause wild animals to become more alert or aggressive, depending on the species and the situation

There are pros and cons to every situation. Some hikers feel that the pros outweigh the cons, while others are the opposite and leave their pups at home. If you want to bring your dog on your day hikes, read on to learn about trail etiquette and all the essential gear you’ll need.

By the way, you can read more about what to do if you encounter a moose, black bear, grizzly bear, mountain lion, wolves, bobcat, alligator, wild boars or coyote on our blog!

Trail Etiquette With Dogs

Hiking with family and dogs

If you’re new to hiking in general, you may not be aware that there is a right way to hike and a wrong way. Trail etiquette is essential to keep the atmosphere friendly, safe, and enjoyable.

When you bring your four-legged pal on a hike, there are certain things you should keep in mind while enjoying nature.

The National Park Service has an excellent article about hiking etiquette. The SparkNotes of the report includes (Yes, SparkNotes. I’m old!):

  • Hikers yield to horses 
  • Bikers yield to hikers
  • Horses yield to no one

In reality, bikers rarely yield to hikers. In most instances, bikers will ring their bell to let you know they are approaching, and hikers move off the trail. 

These suggestions are for hikers, so let’s look at proper etiquette for hiking with dogs!

Dog looking at humans taking a photo on top of Ruby Peak in Colorado.

Know Your Dog

You might have the friendliest dog in the world, except when they see XYZ. Maybe they’re reactive to males. Perhaps a specific breed of dog sets them off. Whatever it may be, know how your dog reacts to certain people and animals and their body language.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing a reactive dog on your hike. Let me repeat that. There’s nothing wrong with bringing your reactive dog on a hike! 

As long as you know your dog, what they react to, and how to handle the situation, you should never feel like you need to leave your dog at home just because they don’t get along with other dogs or people.

I used to have an 85-pound pit mix that was reactive to people and dogs. Poor fella was in a lousy situation for the first seven years of his life. I took him everywhere! Part of trail etiquette includes knowing how to handle your dog in different situations. This keeps you and your pup safe and happy and makes the hike more enjoyable for everyone.

Read The Leash Laws

If the trail you plan to hike is dog-friendly, you’ll also want to check signs or online sources for the leash guidelines.

Some parks do not require your dog to be on a leash, but most do. When there is a leash law, you should follow the guidelines and keep your dog on a leash. Parks do not put these guidelines up to annoy dog owners. They are to keep your dog safe from wild animals and to help keep nature as natural as possible.

If you love to let your dog off-leash because they are super friendly to people and dogs, be aware that not all people like dogs. Even if your dog is friendly, someone else’s dog may be very reactive. 

You should always keep your dog on a leash if they have a poor recall. Some of our favorite leashes are Knot-a-Leash and the Hitch Hiker Leash by Ruffwear.

Pick Up After Your Dog

Any dog owner that’s been on a walk with their dog knows that they tend to do their business in the most inconvenient places and times, such as right on your neighbor’s lawn while they’re outside watching. Oops.

While on a day hike with your dog, pick up their poo and pack out the poop bags. It doesn’t help nature and other hikers if you pick up your dog’s poo and leave the bag just off the trail.

It’s important not to be one of those “I’ll get it on my way back” hikers. Instead, plan where to put the bag if you’re in the middle of a hike. One option is to get your dog a harness that has pockets, such as Ruffwear’s Front Range Day Pack.

Another option is the Pack Out Bag, which is designed for this particular situation and can be clipped to a bag or used with the supplied belt.

Read The Room

It’s not hard to tell dog lovers from those that would rather not come close to your dog. If someone looks afraid or moves way off the trail to avoid your dog, try to keep your dog close and pass quickly.

In addition to reading people, you should keep an eye on your dog’s body language and the body language of other dogs. Look for these signs that your dog or another dog is uncomfortable, fearful, or reactive:

  • Yawning: Dogs yawn when they are uncomfortable with a situation. It is just one way that they relieve stress.
  • Lip-licking: When a dog is stressed, it will lick its lips repeatedly.
  • Barking: We may think our dogs just bark to bark, but repetitive barking can signify stress or anxiety.
  • Ears back: When a dog is uncomfortable, it will pin its ears back.
  • Growling: Many people, even dog owners, think that growling is bad behavior. This needs to be corrected. If your dog growls, this is a GOOD sign. It means they are warning you that they are uncomfortable instead of simply biting.
  • Hair raised: If your dog raises its fur, it may mean they are curious about something new. The dog feels threatened if the hair is lifted and accompanied by growling, hackles raised, or a wrinkled nose.
  • Tail upright: Dogs that feel threatened will often raise their tails upright and may even wag their tails. Know the difference between a happy dog and one that feels frightened.

A study published in the Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions Between People And Other Animals found that dog owners were actually less likely to identify these behaviors than non-dog owners. 

Have you ever thought about taking your cat with you on a hike? If you’re already a fan of hiking with your dog, why not harness train your feline friend and join the growing number of cat owners who take their kitties on outdoor adventures!

In fact, we have a great article about how to harness train your cat to get them ready for the great outdoors. So, why wait? Get ready to explore the wilderness with your furry friends!

What To Bring On A Hike With Your Dog

A dog and young woman hiking together.

Let’s get to the meat of this article – what to bring on a hike with your pooch. We all want our dogs to have a good time while exploring nature, but we also want to be as prepared as possible to keep them happy and healthy.

To start things off, we’ll discuss the bare necessities you need to hike with your dog.

The Necessities

In most cases, you will need to bring more than the necessities for your day hike. However, if you are familiar with the trail and it is a short hike, you can get away with just the necessities and worry about everything else after you get back home.

Here is a list of “required” doggy gear for hiking with your pal on short hikes:

If your dog has the leptospirosis vaccine, it allows them to drink from running water sources in nature. If you know there is a clean stream along the trail, you can leave the water and water dish at home as long as your dog is vaccinated.

Just ensure they are drinking from running water sources, not stagnant water!

For Safety

If you’re anything like me, you like to be prepared for every worst-case scenario possible. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prepare for emergencies with your dog.

One way to properly prepare your dog is to bring the necessary jackets, life preservers, coats, and paw protection. The equipment you choose will depend mainly on the weather.

For cold weather, we suggest the following:

  • Paw wax
  • Trim the hair between your dog’s toes
  • Jacket/coat

Cold weather affects some species of dogs more than others, but in general, most dogs are equipped to withstand some cold weather. According to Texas A&M University, no set temperature is ‘too cold’ for dogs (Within reason – obviously -40℉ is too cold!). 

The important thing is to watch for signs that your dog is too cold such as shivering, biting at the toes, standing in a hunched position, tucking their tail between their legs, and pinning their ears back.

For warm weather, we suggest the following:

While cold weather carries the risk of hypothermia, warm weather comes with the hazard of overheating. Check on your dog frequently to make sure it is not overheating. When it’s hot, take your time and go at your own pace on the trail.

According to the University of Georgia, pugs, bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers, and Shih Tzus are particularly vulnerable to hot weather. Older and chunky dogs are also more susceptible than young and fit dogs. Consider using a cooling vest for these breeds of dogs. Learn more about cooling vest and which one is best for your dog!

Weather can certainly be a factor in preparing for your day hike, but a few pieces of gear are just good to have with you no matter what the weather is like.

Two of our most vital suggestions to keep you and your dog safe on any day hike include:

Believe it or not, there are first-aid kits made specifically for dogs! The Adventure Medical Kits Trail Dog First Aid Kit comes with supplies specific to your pet and a pet first aid guide to help you understand how to treat your injured pup.

Gear up for your next hiking adventure with the ultimate guide on How to pack a first-aid kit, ensuring you’re prepared for any bumps, scrapes, or unexpected mishaps along the trail!


We’ve gone over the necessities and a few safety gear tips. Now it’s on to the extras! This equipment and gear are not required on a hike, but your pup sure will love you for having them!

Some of the extra things you can bring on your hike to make it more enjoyable for you and your pet include:

Hikes are an excellent opportunity to train your dog around distractions. Bring plenty of dog treats, and praise them when they do a good sit or look!

Post-Hike Recommendations

Once the hike is over and you and your dog are ready to hit the road and head home, you can do some things before and during the car ride to reward your pet for a job well done.

Here are some of our suggestions based on our hiking experience with dogs:

  • Paw Cleaner – this helps when the trail gets muddy! 
  • Towel – Again, your dog will likely get muddy if the trail is muddy. A towel can be used to wipe off your dog’s fur before he or she jumps in your car.
  • Bone for the car ride – your dog will thank you!
  • Car seat sling – If you’re worried your dog will get your car dirty, you can purchase a hammock such as Backcountry’s x Petco The Hammock Car Seat Cover. This helps secure your dog so they are not walking around while you are driving.

These items aren’t necessary for your hike, but they help bring the adventure to a close by rewarding your dog and making the day memorable for you and your four-legged friend.

That’s A Wrap!

It’s a rewarding experience to hike with your dog. You and your dog get exercise, breathe fresh air, and enjoy each other’s company.

Packing for a day hike is a little different when you bring your pet. You must pack extra gear to ensure your dog is comfortable, healthy, happy, and safe.

Want to know more about what to pack in your bag for your next day hike? Read all about it here!

Robyn and Gatsby cuddling on a hike

To recap, the gear you should bring on a hike with your dog includes the following:

  • Leash
  • Reflective collar or harness
  • Water and water dish
  • Poo bags
  • Paw wax (cold weather)
  • Jacket/coat (cold weather)
  • Tick remover
  • Life vest
  • Extra water
  • Rescue sling (We recommend Fido!)
  • First-aid kit
  • Training treats
  • Food and food dishes
  • Mat or blanket
  • Toy
  • Paw cleaner
  • Towel
  • Car hammock
  • Post-hike treat/bone

Consider using this as a packing list! You can leave some of this equipment at home for specific situations. For example, you don’t need your dog’s jacket if it’s hot. If your dog is vaccinated and you know there is a freshwater source along a short trail, you can bring less water.

The most important thing you can do for your dog on a hike is to prepare for everything. Your dog depends on you to keep them safe and happy, so do what you can to make your walk enjoyable with your best friend!


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